China Book Update

In the China book is a section entitled “Totalitarianism.” Considering current relations between the US and China, I’m wondering if something that happened in the emailing of the manuscript file shouldn’t be included.

When my editor sent it back to me after having had it for 3 weeks or so there was a HUGE red warning banner over the top telling me to consider carefully if I wanted to open it because it resembled many suspicious “phishing” messages. I clicked “safe” on the red banner and it disappeared, but when I responded to my editor, she got the same message.

We decided to change the name of the file from “My China” to “Baby Duck”. When I sent it back to her this afternoon, no red banner, no warnings, all was well.

China has launched a propaganda war against us, and godnose what “we” are doing in response…

OTHERWISE I spent the whole day reading my editor’s comments and evaluating changes she suggested using the comments and changes pane that exists on both Pages and Word. It’s laborious but not difficult. Her suggestions were good — and the main takeaway I got was that not everyone has experienced what I did and it’s important that I consciously consider that and offer details and backstory. Chinese history is not everyone’s obsession…

So… I have sent it back to her and I guess I’ll get a response next week.

I love the project and it’s made me think in ways I haven’t thought before, mostly that it has taken me all this time — 35? — years to be able to write that story, though I’ve written bits along the way. So much to grapple with — the experience itself, the fact that I was in a new marriage that was a disaster just a few months into it — something I didn’t want the book to be about at all and yet, Jim was there, part of it. I was stunned by how much Chinese I remember and wondered how to integrate it meaningfully. I hope I’ll be able to include illustrations because they’ll give some needed continuity to the stories in the book, which is largely a compilation of anecdotes.

I hope it’s moving toward being the good, beautiful and true book I want it to be. No project — except maybe Martin of Gfenn and My Everest — has meant as much to me as this one.


No, Teddy’s not preening. He’s wearing my t-shirt so he doesn’t mess with the stitches on his gonads. One of the good parts of having a male dog neutered is that one gets to use the word “gonads,” truly one of the best words in English.

In cinema, the best gonad scene I can recall is in Little Big Man when General Custer is preening in his tent and has called in Dustin Hoffman’s character, Jack Crabb (who was raised by the Cheyenne), to explain his job with Custer’s army. In that conversation Custer dubs Jack “Muleskinner,” and says that he knows Jack Crabb is totally untrustworthy. He explains that he going to use Jack as a “reverse scout,” and will do the opposite of everything he advises. In their conversation Custer explains how hours in the saddle cause “the juices” to rise unhealthily in the gonads.

Sadly, this isn’t anywhere on Youtube or I’d share it for our mutual amusement. Later in the film, they are on the battlefield, surrounded by “savages.” Custer asks Jack what he should do…

And since there are people who read this blog who live in other countries, or parts of the United States where they might not have been raised on debates about the Battle of the Little Bighorn, here’s what it’s all about. Because my family (mom, aunts) had grown up within a few miles of the battlefield, Custer’s mistakes were a normal topic of conversation at family gatherings. As it happens, my grandfather was six years old when the battle took place.

The battlefield is a National Monument. Originally it was called Custer Battlefield, but more enlightened times changed the name to Little Bighorn Battlefield. It is known by locals as “Buster’s Cattlefield” for good reason. Cattle graze there. The most famous artifact in the family — which I possess — is an arrowhead of Montana moss agate found by my Aunt Martha and grandfather on a stroll through the cattle field.

Rio Grande and North Clear Creek Falls with HIGH Water

My friend and neighbor, Karen, and I took off today and headed north of Creede to see North Clear Creek Falls with high water. Karen had never been there and, according to old timers, the water hasn’t been this high in a lot of their lifetimes. I’ve been feeling (in the midst of puppy training) that I should GET OUT THERE but when you have to train a puppy, you have to train a puppy.

The drive up was amazing — the river has been flooding, mostly in flatter areas. We saw a place where it had apparently taken out a railroad track. Lots of fields were flooded and others were filled with wild iris. In the field near our hospital, where a large herd of bison live, we got to see bison in their winter coats standing and grazing in a meadow of blue and white flowers. We should have stopped to take pictures, but didn’t. We had a bit of a time crunch because Teddy was neutered today and I had to pick him up at 3. It’s a 78 mile drive to get up to the falls and we took off at 10.

All along the road — which winds along the Rio Grande — we were stunned by the high water. Karen, who could look out the window, noticed places where decks of summer homes were under water. Bridges — car and narrow gauge railroad — were VERY close to the water. Anyone attempting to raft would lose their noggin and the top of their raft.

The Rio Grande

We got to the top of the road which is just twenty some miles from the place where Alferd Packer ate his friends one desperate winter. This is what we saw.

We were hit by the spray, admired the rainbow, and I kept thinking of this poem from Goethe’s Faust Part II

β€œLet the sun stay in my back, unseen!
The waterfall I now behold with growing
Delight as it roars down to the ravine.
From fall to fall a thousand streams are flowing.
A thousand more are plunging, effervescent,
And high up in the air the spray is glowing.
Out of this thunder rises, iridescent,
Enduring through all change the motley bow,
Now painted clearly, now evanescent,
Spreading a fragrant, cooling spray below.
The rainbow mirrors human love and strive:
In many-hued reflection we have life.”

Goethe, Faust II, trans. Walter Kauffman

One Week Teddy Report

I have one of those cool inside/outside thermometers and yesterday it broke. The temps hit 80 F (26 C) and, in shock and outrage, the little screen stopped. “That’s it,” it declared. “I’m not going any higher. This is messed up.”

I think it needs a new battery…

We’re not expecting drizzle or anything cold any time soon. Thunder storms that scare the bejeezus out of Dusty T. Dog. That’s it.

As of yesterday, Teddy Bear T. Dog has been my dog for a week. I just got back from taking him to the vet for the rite of passage. “It’ll calm him down,” they say. He’s already a calm little guy, but it’s OK. It might make it a little easier for me to keep his attention for leash training.

Yesterday on our leash walk, I didn’t use the head collar on Teddy, and it was a literal drag. When I got home, I realized that I’ve stopped teaching dogs to heel. I have just made them wear a head collar and called it good. I thought about myself as a dog trainer and I suck. I just train them to live with me and that’s it. With Bear, from her very first night, I got the message that she was an autonomous being, and she would not ever exactly “obey.” I was fine with that. I’d lived with half a dozen Siberian huskies who didn’t obey either. Their style was to cooperate. I’d witnessed what happens when a dog decides to cooperate with me, and it was a lot more pleasant than training in many ways. BUT Dusty was professionally trained, and he’s a LOT easier to live with in some situations than my other dogs. He’s still El Barquero Grande and that could not be trained away.

Dog’s have their natures.

Not that I don’t train them at all. They know sit, down, NO, wait, stop, come, DON’T EVEN THINK OF IT, that kind of stuff. I was feeling bad about myself as a dog trainer of Teddy until I looked up professional trainers online last night and saw all they would teach Teddy that I haven’t is leash walking and staying in a crate. Those are nice features, but wow. $1600 for that? Anyway, at the vet just now, Teddy sat for anyone who told him to, including a little girl who wondered why he liked her so much. “Oh, honey,” I thought, “NEVER think that. Think that you deserve all the love in the world.”

Teddy is a great dog. I’m very happy I found him. He’s sweet, responsive, loving, enthusiastic, stoical and brave. ❀

Flooding Rio Grande

I had to go to the store and on the way I decided to go see the river at the place where I often walk with my dogs. The featured photo is the parking lot. I think the water crested yesterday or the day before because it was streaming back toward the river from the parking lot this morning.

The Rio Grande being VERY grande
Last winter…

Balm for a Weary Big White Dog

“So what do we do here?”
“You’ll find out, little guy. We’ll all help you.”
“Am I going to stay? I’ll be really good.”
“Are you my friend?”
“Yes. Come outside. We can play.”

The rest of this conversation is in dog.

Last evening I tried to sneak out to take my big white dog for a walk, just the two of us, but I was spied by Teddy the Vigilant. I’m thinking of taking Teddy to the boarding kennel for half a day so Bear and I can go to the mountains where she could play in the snow. She’s worked tirelessly and patiently with this little dog, and I know she’d like it.

Fear is Information

A few days ago a friend stopped by between here and there. When she got out of her car, I saw she was bent over by at least 30 degrees and walking stiff-legged. I hadn’t seen her in a few months and I was a little stunned. As it happened, she’s also the friend that argued with me about my hip surgery insisting that I hadn’t had my mobility restored but “augmented.” That made me furious and I don’t get angry all that easily. I was ready to set her straight on that when she arrived, but when I saw her I thought, “We have a bigger problem now.”

She’s a very controlling person with strong opinions. I don’t like confrontation (she does), but I have confronted her before back when I was negotiating for my house and she was my agent. I also, frankly, think she’s kind of an idiot. Many of her opinions about things have been refuted for once and for all by solid scientific research, but I just let it roll away into the twilight zone of illusion. I’m not a person who has to be right, even when I am.

So, instead of telling her not to argue with me about stuff I know (like my own hip surgery and repair) I talked to her about her mobility. She was very defensive and attempted denial. “It doesn’t matter what you think,” I said. “Just get X-rays so you know what you’re dealing with. If it’s something, you need to know.”

“So I know what my options are?”

“We don’t always have options,” I said. A person with bone-on-bone osteoarthritis has the option to have surgery or ride around in a wheelchair. I know she’s not a person who “believes” in objective reality, but it’s there, nonetheless.

Even then she’s (allegedly) going to get the X-rays and show them to her sister, a chiropractor, rather than let the doctor read them. I just figure “Whatever.” Then I tried to explain what long-term pain and challenged mobility do materially to our brain, the organ, not our mind the ephemeral entity.

Either that got her attention or she decided that agreeing with me would get me to shut up.

But, if you’re curious, what pain and being crippled do to our brain is this:

People with unrelenting pain are often depressed, anxious and have difficulty making simple decisions. Researchers have identified a clue that may explain how suffering long-term pain could trigger these other pain-related symptoms. Researchers found that in people with chronic pain, a front region of the cortex associated with emotion fails to deactivate when it should. It’s stuck on full throttle, wearing out neurons and altering their connections.

What’s more, a person in this situation — because it evolves slowly — has a tendency to accept the unacceptable — like my friend walking like that, and excusing it by saying, “I just drove 3 hours.”


I said straight out, “That doesn’t wash in real life. These are not symptoms of driving. They’re symptoms of a physical problem.”

I think that whether she does anything or not (it’s her life, her body) she knows I care about her. There’s not much more I can do.

I’m still fighting the brain changes every day. I was essentially handicapped and in pain for a decade. Sometimes I’m amazed by what I’m able to do now that I couldn’t do for a long, long time, like figure out a solution so my back storm door doesn’t keep breaking, like cutting back an unwelcome elm tree, like basically figuring out anything.

Today I filled the tires on my real bike which I haven’t ridden in more than 2 years. I was determined to ride it. The whole scenario reminded me of taking out my new Cross Country skis the first, second, third, fourth, fifth times. I felt a nagging apprehension, fear, that threatened to hold me back from doing something I wanted to do. As with Cross Country skiing, I didn’t know if I could ride, but I have no rational reason not to.

My fears are about getting on and stopping at a stop sign. I have to figure out a way to get on when I’m afraid? unable? to lift my leg over the bike. For now I lay the bike on the ground, straddle it and pull it up, but that isn’t what I want to do. So, as I wheeled it out of my yard onto the driveway and laid it down to get on, I felt real terror. What if I fell? Could I get up? Would I be hurt? Then my X-country ski voice said, “Don’t fall. Just ride. Just try. See what it’s like. See what you remember. Stop while you’re still having fun. Get on. Who cares how?”

It was a fresh and lovely morning. I rode a couple of miles where I wouldn’t have to deal with stopping. I thought of how nice it would be ride where I walked Bear in winter. I appreciated how much faster and more exhilarating is than walking. I tested out the gears since it had been so long since I’ve shifted bike gears. I think the seat’s too low, but? I don’t know. I decided to take it to Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa and get it fitted to me. It’s a small bike for a small person — maybe too small? I don’t know. Then I turned into the alley and felt the clutch of fear at the rough curb, the rutted dirt and without thinking I was in a solid mountain biking position on my bike. I felt a little spring of joy in my heart.

I might get this. “Keep trying, every day,” said my Cross Country ski voice. “It’s almost as good as snow, remember? Remember how you rode on all those dirt trails in California imagining you were skiing? It will get you through the summer. Don’t give up.”

I came in the house and cried. Fighting fear is very emotional. You hold it back until you can release it. It’s a very good feeling.

Teddy Update

The dogs and their morning rawhide

I wasn’t expecting to adopt a puppy this summer. I really had other plans. Teddy’s appearance in my domicile was kind of a surprise. But when you see what you need, you take it even if it’s not on the top of your list for that particular moment in time. I know Dusty is old, and I had decided some time back to find a friend for Bear. I just didn’t know it would be now. It’s working out so well. This puppy is what Bear needed, and, to my surprise, what Dusty needed.

Last night I was thinking about all the things I’ve learned from dogs. One of the biggest lessons has been what love actually IS. I didn’t grow up in a family where love was dependable or clear. I sometimes wonder if my whole life hasn’t been a lesson in love, how to do it, what it is, what it involves and demands. It might be too big a subject to write about here, but a lot of what I’ve learned, I’ve learned from the twenty-something dogs I’ve lived with.

I got a very vivid picture of that yesterday morning when I got up, Teddy jumped and jumped and jumped up on me and I snapped at him, “Just fucking stop it!” and I raised my hand. I didn’t hit him, but it was close. I was trying to get to the kitchen to feed them and make coffee. I wasn’t in a great mood. I’ve had some stuff weighing on my mind which, somehow, yesterday, I resolved. It was actually a “luv” problem.

Teddy jumped up on Bear, and she growl/snapped at him. I realized she was supporting me. She didn’t mind him jumping on her. It’s part of their play. I have been continually amazed by the independent wisdom of that big white dog.

When I fed them, Bear didn’t want to eat. I wondered why then I understood She was feeling the little burst of annoyance I’d come out with earlier. I learned early in our life together that if I yelled anywhere around Bear, she would be upset way beyond the context. Every description of her breed says Akbash dogs are very sensitive to their human’s reactions.

This morning was the same scene. I emerged from my room to three happy dogs in a bottle-neck space. I had resolved not to yell at Teddy if he jumped on me. Somewhere in the 24 hours, Teddy had resolved not to jump on me.

Bear, Dusty and I did a lot of dog training yesterday. I began teaching Teddy “Down” and every time I started a little session, Bear and Dusty would join in, partly for cookies, partly to please me, and partly to show Teddy. Training him has been a cooperative effort. Life in a house with a puppy is all dog-training all the time until the moment comes when you’re all just living together, sharing cookies and going for walks. An aspect of love is just that.

It, too, will pass…

Old person curmudgeonly griping ahead, be warned…

Summer is back. It took a while. It’s been a chilly spring and long winter, but yesterday it hit 85 (29 C). It’s that verdant season most people love, and I hate. Everything is green, flowers are blooming and stuff is coming up in the garden. I’m wearing shorts, a grim reality but even old people with crooked legs get hot.

Since I hate mowing the lawn, the kid who mowed my lawn last year is coming back this year for a repeat performance, but only 2 times a month. I have to adjust to this every year and I’ll do it again, probably, even, feeling a little sorrow when the blessed red maple down the street starts to turn, signaling the approach of what I tell Bear is “things getting good again.”

Three months from today is the Potato Festival which marks the end of droves of Texans pulling their “summer homes” — RVs — past my house. When September comes, you can feel the whole town sigh in relief. Everyone (except me) waits longingly for summer but, I think, when it’s finally over, the kids are back in school, the traffic slows back down (traffic being relative) and the job of making things grow is over for the nonce, everyone breathes easier.

The last iris variety to bloom. ❀

Summer awakens all kinds of expectations, I think. I remember as young woman I expected GREAT THINGS from summer that never happened. Maybe it’s the Beach Boys’ fault. πŸ˜‰

In OTHER summer related news, the Rio Grande is under a flood watch — my town is under this flood watch. With 473% snow pack and the temps reaching summer levels, well, I guess I won’t be out walking by the river any time soon. I’m happy for New Mexico and Texas, though. Last year, they barely got any water from this river we share.